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I am brand new to this and trying to figure out where I will be getting my first bees. I am assuming (maybe incorrectly) that some sellers consistently have healthier bees than other sellers. If this assumption is correct, is there any kind of bee seller rating system so I can see the typical quality/health of a seller’s bees before buying?
 

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There is no rating system that I am aware of. Try contacting any local beekeeping associations, they may be able to give you the name of a supplier. Talking with customers and finding out what their results are is usually the best rating system.
 

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I once ask the same question but not on here. :) Since that time, i've learned the hard way about a few things, and I hope that you won't have to, so i'll pass on what I know to date.

1. Word of mouth either makes or breaks a bee business.
2. In most states there are state apiary inspectors that MUST certify your bees prior to you selling them. (They verify that the bees or colonies they came from are disease FREE.
3. In my opinion ANY seller of bees that isn't willing to allow you to inspect the bees you are buying shouldn't be trusted. (Even if he/she does have a seller's inspection certification)
4. ALWAYS, again ALWAYS request to see the bees in the box, verify that there is a laying queen and her pattern is good if purchasing a NUC.
5. If you purchase a "Package of bees", Prepare to keep a very close eye on them and to requeen at some point in the first season.

Now, in my opinion and many others will agree, Purchase your bees within your geographical area, TRI state area that is. They are more apt to be adapted to the local area better. If you cannot find bees in that area, choose a seller that has the same, or worse weather than you do.

However, the true #1 thing that you should do prior to getting your own bees, is to go and get some experience with someone else that has plenty of hives.
 

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My first batch of bees was a nuc from a local beekeeper. I'd always recommend a nuc for a first time beekeeper. The second year, because the nuc program in our local clubs was so far behind in production, I bought a package from Mann Lake, in conjunction with the local bee club. That worked out very well and Mann Lake got their packages from California vs. down south where some areas have feral populations of Africanized honey bees.

So definitely get with a local club and talk to them about where they get their bees.
 

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As several others said , buy local if you can . That way you know where the guy lives ... Seriously , the guy I got mine from is on a crusade to breed good queens that are disease resistant , and they're acclimatized for this area . IMO that makes my success more likely . I just recently added the first super to my brood deep , only took about 8-10 days for them to start drawing comb on it . With a bloom of goldenrod coming on , I'm cautiously optimistic that I won't need to feed at all . If we make it thru the winter with enough bees , I'll have 2 hives next summer . Might even get to harvest some honey !
 
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